Longhope2Longhope Ride

The Longhope ladies have finally made it home after their bike ride named “Longhope2Longhope” after cycling from the village to the Orcadian village of Longhope in aid of the RNLI. Sue Smith and Angela Hamer have been cycling 815 miles over 12 days, while Ceri Watkins was walking most of that way, but skipping the boring bits by letting the train take the strain. Ceri is still doing other walks on the return journey. If you would like to donate to this worthy cause, and haven’t yet done so, the girls have set up a Justgiving page,

The Longhope Memorial to the RNLI men All aboard the Longhope Lifeboat Ceri eating Orkney Ice-cream at the Italian chapel

Here is their story in Sue's words:

Finally the day had arrived, 23rd July 2012, all the planning and training was to be put to the test.
The send-off from family and friends here was brilliant, there were banners and flags being waved, people cycled along with us to give us encouragement. Kate Justice from radio Gloucester came to interview us, the local newspaper wrote a story, took photographs and will be doing a follow up story as will the radio. We have a big thank you to say to them, as we hope it will create more sponsorship. It was an amazing send off. Angela and I want to say THANK YOU to our husbands and families for putting up with the months of waiting for things to be done due to our training!

Once we left Longhope we were pumped full of adrenaline from the brilliant send off and on a great big high. Two friends joined us at the beginning of day one, Richard for part of the day and Bill for the whole day. Bill was brilliant he had previously cycled from Lands’ end to John O’Groats so was full of useful information. He cycled the 70 miles back to his home the following morning. Richard was great, cycling off ahead of us to stop and take photographs as we reached him. He left us close to Tewksbury to cycle the return journey home. Also along the route on day one, Angela’s husband Fran and good friend Charlie joined us, cycling back home via the Malvern’s! They actually arrived home later than we arrived at our first overnight stop; we are still unsure how far they eventually cycled!

Arriving at the first overnight stop earlier than expected we had time to have a look around before our evening meal and sorting out everything for the next day. Everyday started and ended like a military operation, organising and sorting panniers what we needed to wear and have handy for any change in the weather. Every evening we would again sort out our panniers, the route would be checked and changed if we thought we could see a less busy way to get to the next evenings destination. Family members who had been left with information about each day’s route had to be contacted in order to let them know we had arrived safe, the Facebook page and twitter needed updating to let our wider audience know how we were getting on. However, phone calls, text messages and the internet need a signal and this wasn’t always available so keeping in contact wasn’t always easy!

On the morning of our third day, another friend Caroline set off from home at 4 a.m. to drive up to meet us at our overnight stop so she could cycle that and the next day with us before returning by train to her car to drive home again. It was great to see her and we had such a lot of fun, but it was also two very hilly days. After about 60 miles on her first day Caroline casually informed us that this was the furthest she had ever cycled. When she had said she would join us the route had not been finalised, she was only expecting to cycle 50 miles one day and 65 the next, so she had only trained up to 50 miles. Caroline did extremely well climbing some very long steep hills and on her first day cycling with us she accomplished her longest cycle ride of 77 miles.

On day five, another friend, Julia came up to cycle with us. It was a particularly hard day with hills and a strong head wind; we were very tired and ready to get to the overnight stop. When we say Julia cycling towards us the emotion at seeing her was amazing. Our longest days cycling was over 10 hours our shortest 6. There was one day when we cycled 92 miles which was one of the hardest days, not least due to the miles cycled but also the roads we had to cycle on and the condition of those roads. We cycled along the A9 which we later found out was nick named ‘death road’!

Angela my cycling partner started with a cold on the 7th day but didn't once say she couldn't do the cycling. We saw some fantastic scenery and met some lovely kind people. On odd occasions we had to ask for directions, particularly in England as the road signs were not always well positioned. We didn't seem to have that trouble up in the more remote areas of Scotland; this was definitely a good thing!! Getting lost meant adding more miles which in turn meant cycling for longer than we needed to.

When we arrived in the Orkney's the community treated us like celebrities, they were so friendly, and appreciative of what we had accomplished, we have made some new friends there. There was a lovely reception in our honour. We saw for ourselves what the RNLI do and the conditions they have to work in, they work for no remuneration, it is all voluntary, with no funding from the government, every penny is raised by donations from the public! Both I and Angela found it very emotional visiting the lifeboat museum, reading the story of the 'TGB' seeing pictures and names of the men lost in the disaster.

We were both glad that we had put in the hundreds of training miles prior to this challenge as without it we might not have completed the more than 800 miles that we have cycled. Neither of us however, thought at any time during the journey that we wouldn't complete the journey and not once did we regret starting it. We have had a fantastic experience and although it feels very surreal almost like another life it is one that will live with us, that we are proud to have accomplished and an experience we will never forget. I am glad I had such a lovely person to share all the experiences with and my biggest thanks have to go to Angela, THANK YOU.

The trip was awesome, a real challenge but so worth doing. Ceri Watkins had originally wanted to join me on the marathon bike ride but after some training she decided she would walk part of the route instead. We were all together at Longhope in the Orkneys but after we departed on our journey south to Longhope Gloucestershire, Ceri remained behind for a few days to look around the Orkney’s, then began her walk from Edinburgh to Shrewsbury, having previously walked the Great Glen way. As I write this I know she is still walking! Good Luck Ceri.

To read more about the Longhope Lifeboat disaster in 1969 that can be found on this website, click here.

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